Alternatives for Root Canals

Young man whitening teeth at dentist.
Man getting his teeth checked out at a dentist. (Image: karelnoppe/iStock/Getty Images)

Sometimes teeth develop nerve problems. These can result from tiny cracks in the tooth, trauma, or deep decay. If a patient is experiencing pain or swelling, root canal, or endodontic, therapy may be recommended. Many patients would like to avoid the cost and discomfort of the root canal procedure if possible. There are a few options available to those searching for an alternative to root canal therapy.

Medication

In some cases, a tooth infection will respond well to antibiotic therapy, making a root canal unnecessary. In other cases, the antibiotic will only be postponing the inevitable, and the root canal therapy may be needed after all. Common antibiotics prescribed for root canal infections include Penicillin VK, amoxicillin, and Keflex. While waiting for the antibiotic to take effect, some patients may need a pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory non-steroidal medications, including ibuprofen, work in many patients. Occasionally, a patient may require a stronger medication to control pain while waiting for the antibiotic to cure the infection.

Sedative Filling

Sometimes when a dentist is removing decay or replacing a filling, he finds that the decay is very close to the nerve chamber. In this case, root canal therapy may be recommended. Another option in some cases is for the dentist to place a medicated, or sedative, filling. This can prevent the nerve pain that would make a root canal necessary. The sedative filling is temporary, and the dentist will place a permanent filling approximately one month after placing the sedative filling.

Extraction

A less costly, quicker, and, in some cases, less painful option to endodontic therapy is to have the tooth extracted. This can be done by your general dentist or an oral surgeon. In most cases, it is recommended to have the tooth replaced, either with a bridge, implant or partial denture. Replacing the tooth can drive up the cost of extraction considerably. It is important to have a plan for replacing the tooth, if appropriate, before having the tooth extracted whenever possible. In some cases, impressions can be taken before the tooth is extracted to aid in making the new tooth more similar to your old tooth.

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